By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - The Odd Fellows Hall will begin its rise from the ashes in February.
Rebuilding the landmark at Fifth and Madison, which served as everything from a jail for Civil War prisoners to a roller skate rink in its 146-year lifetime, is expected to begin in February, before it starts its next life as home to a restaurant and retail shopping and office space in September.
Owners of the building were renovating it when a devastating fire broke out in May, destroying everything but the building's brick facade.
Architect Andrew Piaskowy said Friday that the total cost of the project is about $3.5 million.
"The hammers start swinging in February," leasing agent Craig Roberts said. "The good news on rebuilding after the fire is that we are no longer tied to problems that existed inside. We will have Class A amenities."
And an extra floor.
The original building featured a second-floor ballroom, famous for its 25-foot tall ceiling suspended by a truss system. The high ceiling has allowed Mr. Piaskowy to build an additional level, which will create another 5,000 square feet.
Mr. Piaskowy said restoring the building was the "respectful" thing to do.
"This is the busiest corner in Covington and, for so many years, this building has been embedded in the architectural fabric," Mr. Piaskowy said.
In addition to saving the outer walls, the roof will be built back to its original design. But the building will be a marriage of old and new, wbith modern cable, electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems.
An area on the renovated building's first floor will be dedicated to the past - displaying items from the building and architectural elements recovered from the fire.
"It's become such an emotional rallying point for the community," said Tony Milburn, one of the building's three owners.
The hammers may not start swinging until February, but there's been plenty of action around the shell of the old building. The exterior walls are being readied for structural steel and foundation work. And the construction team is in the process of drilling test borings for analysis, to be completed by December.
Odd Fellows Hall was named for the civic group that held meetings there until 1923. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The fire kept Fifth Street, between Russell and Scott, closed for the better part of two weeks while a crane removed debris. Nearby businesses, which rely heavily on walk-in customers, reported losing as much as 50 percent of their business in the weeks after the fire.
Ex-coroner accused of drug scam
Want to blow up Cinergy Field? Buy a ticket for the chance
Speeches, letters honor Rev. Booth
Sycamore teachers talking strike
IN THE TRISTATE
New displays, kids' activities featured
$100K raised for criminal reviews
Heart device cuts deaths, hospitalization
Obituary: Louis J. Gerwe, ran Bromwell's
Tristate A.M. Report
RADEL: Meeting a need
MCNUTT: Christmas walks
GUTIERREZ: Home-sales slump
FAITH MATTERS: Love served for Thanksgiving
BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Portman backs schools in legal fight
Hamilton group wants baseball team by '05
Firm to design Milford park
Clermont kids learn to help those in need
Political parties unite to oppose `eccentric' board member
Ohio ethnic groups hail NATO growth
Malpractice bill contains lawmakers' message for court
Twister wrecks tight city budgets
USDA suspends regional director
Veterans wait for state's second home
N.Ky. market idea gets one OK
Researcher denies fish poaching
Union reps accuse Patton of `bad faith'
Craven did not waver in denials
New hall is on the way
Former Salvation Army worker charged in Christmas toy theft
State may release felons to save money
`Hillbillies' reality show under fire